Breast Anatomy and Breast Milk Production

Breasts are glands consisting of connective and fatty tissues supporting and protecting the breast milk producing areas of the breast. Breast milk is produced in small clusters of cells called alveoli. Breast milk travels down milk ducts to the milk sinuses. Milk sinuses act as a breast milk collection reservoir. Breast milk sinuses are located behind the areola, the pigmented area around your nipple.

Breastfeeding success has nothing to do with breast size, nipple size or nipple type. Breast size is an inherited trait and determined by the number of fat cells. Breasts will enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. The more you nurse the more breast milk you produce!

Read More:

What Happens During Lactation

Breast Size and Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding with Small Breasts
Breastfeeding and Small Breast Milk Storage Capacity
Breastfeeding and Large Breast Milk Storage Capacity

Breast Surgery and Breastfeeding:

Breast Surgery and Breastfeeding
Breast Reduction and Breastfeeding
Breast Implants and Breastfeeding

Types of Nipples:

Inverted Nipples
Leaking Nipples
Sore Nipples

Breast Milk Supply and Demand:

Increasing Breast Milk Production
Common Misconceptions about Breast Milk Supply
Three Things Everyone Thinks Dramatically Increases Milk Supply

Three Things Everyone Thinks Dramatically Affect Milk Supply

There are three things you will find often repeated as ways to increase your milk supply, but in reality have little to no impact when the mother is already in good health.

Drink more fluids - Although your fluid consumption will increase as you breastfeed keep in mind that you only are replacing the amount your child consumes, which is about four ounces at each nursing session. Forcing yourself to consume extra fluids has no real effect aside from getting you to go to the bathroom more frequently.

Eat a better diet – of course you should eat well, but as long as you are consuming foods that meet your nutritional needs than eating better will not promote increased milk supply. What it may do is provide a better quality breast milk but even that advantage is still dispute by health care professionals.

Get more rest - like eating well making sure you get adequate rest is important to your health, however no connection between the quantity of rest and breast milk production has been found.

Keep in mind that as long as you are in general good health these suggestions will have little impact on your milk production. They are however good guidelines to follow to keep yourself feeling well and in good health.

Small Breast Milk Storage Capacity

Small Breast Milk Production: Is It A Function Of Size?

If you have a small breast milk production and small breast milk storage capacity, there is no reason to worry that you may not be able to supply enough nutrition for your child. You may simply need to modify your breastfeeding schedule on different rhythm than mothers having a larger capacity.
One breast or two – Mothers with a smaller breast milk storage capacity will find that their baby will most often nurse from both breasts during feedings. Read more about alternating breasts breastfeeding.
Number off feedings per day - Smaller breast milk storage capacity has a profound impact on the number of feedings your child will want during the day.  Your child will want to nurse more frequently as they are not able to take in as much breast milk.  Be careful not to “drop” feedings during the first six months.  Your child’s nutrition intake may actually decrease with each dropped feeding because your child is not consuming large quantities of milk during each breastfeeding session and so nurses more frequently to compensate.  Another concern abo0ut dropping feedins is that your milk supply may decrease as a result due to your baby not consuming as much as you are producing.
Effect on sleeping patterns – a smaller breast milk storage capacity will usually mean that you will continue more frequent feedings during the night.  This is a perfectly normal situation as your baby is working to take in enough nutrition to continue healthy growth and development.
The size of your breast does not always correspond to the amount of breast milk you can store. A woman with smaller breasts can store more milk than a woman having physically larger breasts.
Continue to feed your child as long as they indicate they are hungry.  Your baby may nurse more frequently but this is just fine as long as they are healthy and growing.

Read More:

What Happens During Lactation

Breast Size and Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding with Small Breasts
Breastfeeding and Small Breast Milk Storage Capacity
Breastfeeding and Large Breast Milk Storage Capacity

Breast Surgery and Breastfeeding:

Breast Surgery and Breastfeeding
Breast Reduction and Breastfeeding
Breast Implants and Breastfeeding

Large Breast Milk Production And Breast Milk Storage Capacity

<h2>Large Breast Milk Production</h2>

A mother with large breast milk production and large breast milk storage capacity will have a different breastfeeding rhythm for the first six months when compared with a mother having a smaller storage capacity.  Some of the ways larger storage will affect feeding patterns:

One breast or two - Having a larger breast milk storage capacity may mean that your baby will only feed on a single breast during the first few months.   This will mean that each of your breasts will have a longer interval before it is drained.  Spacing out the feedings will help your body from producing too much milk for your growing child.

Number of feedings per day - A mother with larger storage capacity has the ability to offer more milk in a shorter time to her child.  This may mean that your baby will feel the need to feed less frequently and consume more during each feeding.

Effect on Sleeping patterns – With the ability to take in more milk at each feeding a child may begin sleeping through the night at a much earlier age.

Some concerns:

  • An overly abundant milk supply may make you more susceptible to mastitis.  Since your breasts may be drained less frequently be sure to pay closer attention to any changes or soreness in your breast.
  • Having a large breast milk storage capacity should not adversely affect your milk production.  Since it takes longer to replenish your supply your body will not reduce milk production simply becasue your are going longer between feedings.

Read More:

What Happens During Lactation

Breast Size and Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding with Small Breasts
Breastfeeding and Small Breast Milk Storage Capacity

Breast Surgery and Breastfeeding:

Breast Surgery and Breastfeeding
Breast Reduction and Breastfeeding
Breast Implants and Breastfeeding

Types of Nipples:

Inverted Nipples
Leaking Nipples
Sore Nipples

Breast Milk Supply and Demand:

Increasing Breast Milk Production
Common Misconceptions about Breast Milk Supply
Three Things Everyone Thinks Dramatically Increases Milk Supply

Common Misconceptions About Breast Milk Supply

Breastfeeding Questions: Do I Have Low Breast Milk Supply?

New mothers often pay close attention to how their child is nursing and may encounter some of the following conditions and mistake them for a diminishing breast milk supply.  Most breast milk supply concerns fall into one of two categories: concern for your baby or concern for your breasts.

Baby factors:

  • Your baby seems hungry sooner than expected – Adjust your expectations and make a chart of feeding times to ease your worries
  • Breastfeeding sessions occur more often and last longer – This is a normal occurrence during a growth spurt
  • Breastfeeding session suddenly gets shorter – Babies become more efficient at nursing as they gain more practice
  • Your baby is fussy – Almost all babies no master how much they are fed go through fussy periods.

Mother factors:

  • Breasts feel softer – This is normal after three or four weeks as your body’s breast milk production meets your baby’s needs.
  • Breasts cease leaking – Some mothers never incur leaky nipples while others find that leaking nipples only happens during the first stages of breastfeeding.
  • Breast milk release or let down is not felt – There are occasions when you may not feel your breasts let down even when it happens.
  • You are unable to express quantities of breast milk – Expressing breast milk is a learned skill and not a test of your breast milk supply.

As you continue to breastfeed you and your baby will develop a rapport and begin understanding one another.  Generally as long as they are satiated after nursing your breast milk supply is just fine and you are doing very well as a breastfeeding mom.

Read More:

How Are Feeding Intervals Counted?
Establishing A Routine
Breastfeeding Techniques Fine Tuned
Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?
Warning Signs While Breastfeeding
Increasing Breast Milk Production
Three Things Everyone Thinks Dramatically Increases Milk Supply

Failure of Lactogenesis

While some woman suffer from engorgement other new mothers find themselves at the other end of the spectrum wondering if their milk came in.  Occasionally, lactogenesis, the onset of milk production that usually occurs two to five days after childbirth is delayed in women who experience complication in labor and delivery.  Conditions that can affect lactogenesis are high blood pressure, infection, anemia, or extreme emotional turmoil.

If by the fourth day after your child is born you have concerns about lactogenesis be sure to have your baby checked for signs of weight loss and their absorbing adequate nutrition.  Some things you can do is to use a breast pump after each nursing to continue stimulating your breasts to produce milk.  It may be that hospital grade breast pumps are needed to provide the necessary stimulation.

In very rare occasions a mother’s body cannot produce sufficient quantity of milk for her child.  If you feel you fall into this category please contact your physician or lactation consultant for the best steps going forward to preserve your child’s nutrition.

As a teen mother will I get enough nutrition to breastfeed?

The general rule is that if your body can make a baby then your body can produce milk.  Due to the fact that as a teenager you are still growing pay very close attention to your nutrition.   Not only are you feeding a growing baby, you are still growing yourself.  Keep in mind that your baby needs a healthy well fed mother.  Do your best to avoid junk food and work towards a more balanced diet.  Sample foods from the 12 fabulous foods list (and the 12 other great foods list) and you may find some new favorites!

Where has my Milk Gone?

When your milk comes in your breasts will feel quite full, and some women will even experience the unpleasant feeling of engorgement.   You are very aware at these times that you have lots and lots of milk for your baby.  As the days pass so will that that fullness feeling leaving some women to wonder if their milk supply has decreased or gone away.

It hasn’t gone away, and you will be producing more that during the time when your breasts felt so full.  What is happening is that your breasts respond to the amount of milk consumed by your baby and tailor their productivity accordingly.    As your baby drinks up your milk more is comes in to replace that which was eaten.  This happens as your baby nurses so you do not need to actually store large quantities of milk in your breasts.

It can take some time to establish a good balance between your milk supply and your baby’s consumption.  This is a good time to use a breast pump and participate in a local milk bank where you can donate your breast milk to mothers who wish to breastfeed but for reasons are not able to provide milk from their own body.  The first six weeks are the most challenging and when you may feel the most frustration and discomfort.  Be sure to lean on your support network to help you get through.

Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?

It is difficult to track the quantity of breast milk your baby is consuming while breastfeeding. To my knowledge no one have developed a breast milk meter. And unless you pump breast milk and bottle feed there is little hope of quantifying the volume of breast milk your baby consumes during a given breastfeeding session. Here is an easy trick to determine if your baby is getting enough breast milk.

This trick entails keeping track of what comes out of the other end.  New mothers are encouraged to pay close attention to their babies diapers. You can expect five or six wet diapers a day, any less and it could be a sign that your baby is dehydrated. After the black tarry looking meconium has been cleared of their system. Young breastfed babies will have two to five bowel movements every twenty four hours. It is not uncommon for babies to have a bowel movement after a breastfeeding session.

In the early weeks of life, frequent bowel movements are a good sign that your baby is getting plenty of the hind milk. Hind milk is one of the types of breast milk. Hind milk is higher in fat and provides the calories your baby will need as they grow. Hind milk is a mature milk that released early in the breastfeeding session when you feel the let-down reflex.

Around six weeks of age, you can expect your baby’s bowel movements to be further apart. It is not uncommon for breastfed babies of this age to have bowel movements every other day with no signs of constipation.

Is your baby getting enough milk?  Just remember that what goes in must come out and as long as you are keeping track of the frequency of diapers you will have a good idea of how well they are feeding.

Read More:
What Should My Breastfed Baby’s Diaper Look Like?
What is in Breast Milk?
Different Types of Breast Milk
Warning Signs While Breastfeeding
Signs Your Baby Is Effectively Breastfeeding

Breast Milk Expression Q & A

A few common questions and answers about breast milk expression.

I’m going back to work when should I start to express? Six to eight weeks before returning to work is a good time to begin practicing expressing your breast milk.  This will allow you to learn breast milk expression at a more relaxed pace.  You can store the breast milk you express. When transitioning back to work I found it comforting  knowing my child would not run out of breast milk.

My baby will be in the hospital special care unit for a month, how often will I need to express my breast milk? How often you will need to express your breast milk to maintain your breast milk supply will depend on how established your breastfeeding routine has become.  To maintain the same level of breast milk production you can expect to pump every three to four hours.  You could also use this time boost your breast milk production and donate breast milk to a local breast milk bank.

How long should I expect a breast milk expression session to take? Like breastfeeding itself the more practiced you get at expressing breast milk the quicker a breast milk expression session will go.  Expect to spend around thirty minutes, this includes stopping and starting as well as switching breasts.  Just like when you started breastfeeding you should begin your introduction to breast milk expression with shorter more frequent sessions

Read More About Expressing Breast Milk:
Pumping and Expressing Breast Milk
Steps when Using a Breast Pump
Breast Milk Expression Tips
Types of Breast Pumps
Increasing Breast Milk Production
Breastfeeding While Working

Read About Storing Breast Milk:
How to Store Breast Milk
Glass or Plastic?